Lee Trevino is in love with nearly everything here: the Royal Birkdale course on which he shot a five-under 66 today to move within a shot of the lead; a 13-year-old girl from suburban Liverpool for whom he promised to buy a motorized wheelchair if he wins the British Open; a woman who sold him lemonade 15 years ago and whose first name happens to be the same as his former wife.

"Why change the towels?" he said.

During the second round today, Trevino wore a mostly sober face, clenching his jaw and saluting the six birdie putts that fluttered in the hole, and fussing at those dratted long irons for not getting the ball much inside the boundaries of each green.

Yes, he adores his putter.

"Yesterday (during a two-under round of 69) I missed the first putt inside 10 feet in two weeks."

He wishes a wind that bore in at midday would huff even harder, so the British Open could get to feeling like the British Open instead of the Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open.

Strike that analogy. If it weren't for that forgettable little tournament, Trevino might still be a rather lonely and withdrawn fellow off the course. It was at the Wethersfield Country Club that he met the youngster who has grown into the woman he cherishes.

He can't wait to tell the world about Claudia Bove.

"I've known her since she was 11 years old," he said. "Her father's an assistant at the club and they live off the 16th tee. She's set up a lemonade stand nearby. First time we talked, she said her name was the same as my wife's.

"When I still was married, she'd come down to Dallas with some friends and I'd let 'em use the car. Then she got a job in Dallas, as a reservationist, and when I got divorced in November, my 17-year-old daughter (Leslie) wanted to stay with me. When I was on the road, I asked Claudia if she'd live with Leslie.

"We started dating. There'd been nothing before. Then I made her quit her job. I feel so great. All those years always by myself on tours. It's a great relationship. I've got a smile on my face; I'm taking longer steps, and they're springier."

The inevitable question got popped.

"I'll probably waltz down the aisle one more time," he said. "I feel like I'm 22 again."

Julie Karlsen came into Trevino's life today. A teacher at Karlsen's special school wheeled her toward him as he walked off the 18th green. She has red hair and freckles, and kept throwing her hand over her face in embarrassment whenever Trevino looked her way.

Which was often.

"I could see she was crippled from the waist down," he said. "So she could operate a motorized wheelchair by herself. We have this pro-celebrity event over here each year and must have raised enough money for 100 of 'em. They go for about $1,200 each.

"I told her I won't know where she'll be Sunday, but she'll know where I'll be if I win."

Trevino is confident that can happen, even with a back that could go into round-ending spasms at any moment.

"I think I have a major championship in me," he said. "But I think this is where I'm gonna have to win it. I can bump-and-run it over here. On the American courses, you've got to fly the ball over something to get to the green. Here, I don't have to fly it 205 yards. I can burn it 170 and it'll roll the rest of the way."

He illustrated that on the 15th fairway today. His mind possibly flickering back to the El Paso and New Mexico munies where he learned such touch, Trevino sent a seven-iron shot low into the wind and it carried about 100 yards in the air and another 30 along the ground.

To easy two-putt range.

"So much of what's going on now happened when I won here in '71," he said. "I'm staying at the same hotel. I just won in Canada (in '71 it was the Canadian Open; this year it was the Canadian PGA). I only had one practice round before each tournament. My wife was with me in '71. Now another Claudia's here."

He thought about his overwhelming affection for the British Open.

"If you believe in reincarnation," he said, "I was a Scotsman 250 years ago."

Just to keep this an equal-opportunity column, we take sad note of the cheap shot sailed at Craig Stadler today. Two of the popular, which is to say tasteless, papers spewed out stories and war-sized headlines calling him "Super Slob."

"Don't know what they'd have done if I hadn't lost 15 pounds the last three weeks," Stadler said.

He wasn't smiling.

"He even looked nice yesterday," said Stadler's wife, Sue.

Stadler is not the sort even Christian Dior could make sexy. But the worst he ever gets is rumpled. And ruffled. There's not an ounce of slob in that massive body.

"Want a comment?" he said when a copy of one of the stories found its way into his hands.

Of course.

He crushed the paper, to golf-ball size and tossed it over his shoulder.

Stadler once objected violently to being called walrus; now he even uses furry, puppet-like walrus dolls as head covers for his woods. Perhaps he also will find a light way around this. A tux on the first tee Friday would be a wonderful, though highly unlikely, touch.