If it were up to the judges, Bradenton's Sam Woolf would cruise into next week's competition on "American Idol."
On Wednesday's episode, the seven remaining finalists sang songs suggested by their competitors. Woolf, a 17-year-old senior at Braden River High School, performed "Sail Away" by David Gray. It was selected by Jessica Meuse.
He was the sixth of the seven contestants to perform solo, and judges had been unimpressed with most other performances. Only Caleb Johnson and Alex Preston received positive reviews before Woolf sang.
After Woolf performed, Jena Irene performed Radiohead's "Creep," and Judge Harry Connick Jr. said it was the best performance of the night.
In addition to singing live, a recorded segment revealed little-known facts about Woolf. He learned at a "really young age" that he's really bad at sports, he said. He often plays pranks on his grandparents because "it keeps them young," and he used to be a decent skateboarder. He even pulled off a couple of respectable tricks for the camera.
Meuse said she picked "Sail Away" because it suited Woolf's voice and would help him connect "with the ladies."
Apparently it did.
The judges have been advising Woolf to connect more with his audience and they said they liked what they saw this week.
"You're a work in progress, and the key word is 'progress,'" Connick told him.
Jennifer Lopez told him she didn't feel much emotion from Woolf while watching him in front of her, but when she looked at what American was seeing on television, she felt his emotion.
Early in the show, Woolf teamed with Preston on a rendition of Passenger's "Let Her Go."
Judges were unimpressed.
Connick called it "saccharine." Keith Urban called it "cute" and "chintzy."
Lopez said the girls in the audience loved it, which caused the girls in the audience to scream in agreement.
But it's not the judges who decide Woolf's fate. That's up to the "Idol" watchers who vote. They've already voted him off once, two weeks ago, but the judges used their only "save" option of the season to overturn that decision.
Woolf and his fans will find out whether he'll make it to the final six during the weekly half-hour results show scheduled for 9 p.m. Thursday on Fox.
Even if Woolf doesn't sing again on "Idol," it won't be long before fans can see him perform. This summer, Woolf will play the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota on the annual American Idol Top 10 Tour, which includes all top finishers from the 2014 competition.
The Van Wezel show is set July 17. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. May 9 for $55 to $105. Call 941-953-3368 or go to VanWezel.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.