Billy Horschel made a circle with his thumb and forefinger about an inch in diameter to show how frustratingly small the cup looks to him right now.

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans’ defending champion headed home to Florida on Friday. He improved on his first-round 74 with a 2-under par 70 in the second round, but it was still two strokes wide of the cut line.

Horschel blamed his putting as his biggest problem not only this week but his entire season. He’s even switched putters away from the one he used last year to sink a 27-foot title-clinching birdie putt on the 18th hole at TPC Louisiana for his first PGA Tour win, but to no avail.

“I’m about to my breaking point,” Horschel said.

Horschel made just five birdies in two rounds here.

“I feel I’m just one or two rounds away,” he said. “I just can’t make any birdies.”

Local connection

Only three of the eight players with Louisiana ties who started the tournament Thursday made the cut: Michael Thompson, David Toms and Andrew Loupe.

Thompson, a former Tulane golfer, shot a 71 Friday and has a 36-hole score of 138 going into the weekend. Former LSU stars Toms and Loupe were at 141 after posting scores of 68 and 70, respectively.

Not making it were former LSU and UNO player Ken Looper and Baton Rouge native Heath Slocum, who were at even par 144 after carding rounds of 73 and 70, respectively.

Former LSU star John Peterson had a 71 Friday and finished at 147, while Metairie native Neal Ajubita had a 69 for a total of 148. Former University High golfer Patrick Reed had a 76 and 36-hole score of 150.

Fit as a fiddle

J.B. Holmes says he has fully recovered from a broken ankle last year and brain surgery in 2011. Friday’s second-round 65 supports his claim.

“I think I’m 100 percent health-wise,’’ said Holmes, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. “I’m back to where I’m at, and mentally, I think I’m in a great spot. I’ve really been working on it the last year. I feel the best I’ve felt on a golf course in a long time.’’

Holmes made only $15,184 in five tournaments last year and is playing this season on a major medical exemption.

Play at your own risk

James Driscoll encountered an unexpected hazard on the par 5, 18th Friday: a curious alligator lying in the sand trap near his ball.

Driscoll’s caddie tried to move the reptile by tossing several golf balls into the water. Peterson, Driscoll’s playing partner, finally used a bunker rake to shoo the gator into the lake.

With the gator watching from the water, Driscoll pitched onto the green and eventually sank a 12-footer for birdie.

Ten for one

After starting his round on No. 10, Reed’s fate was all but sealed when he put three balls in the water en route to taking a 10 at the par-5 18th hole — which played as the fourth-easiest hole Friday.

He hit his drive into the left rough, but he went for the green in two and found the water. His next two shots also went into the water that runs along the right side of the fairway.

Reed eventually reached the green with his eighth shot and two-putted from 12 feet for the 10.

Helping Ernie

World Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els didn’t make the cut with a 1-under 143, but he’ll still be around in spirit over the weekend — especially Saturday.

Zurich Classic officials have designated Saturday as Autism Awareness Day or “Blue Out Day.” Touring pros, caddies, spectators and media will be asked to wear blue in support of Els’ initiative to help those affected by the disorder.

Els’ son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism in 2009.

Traffic alert

The westbound lanes of Lapalco Boulevard in front of TPC Louisiana will be closed to traffic from Segnette Boulevard to U.S. 90 until 9 p.m. Sunday. The eastbound lanes will be a two-way through the end of the tournament.

Lagniappe

South Korean golfer Seung-Yul Noh, in third place at 11 under, is wearing a ribbon on his hat this week in memory of victims of the April 16 Korean ferry disaster. … Matt Every withdrew before the start of Friday’s round with flu-like symptoms, a PGA Tour official said. Every carded a 76 on Thursday. ... Tickets will be available at the TPC Louisiana entrance gate off Lapalco Boulevard. Admission is $25.

Scott Rabalais, Sheldon Mickles and Brian Allee-Walsh contributed to this report.