The current No 52-ranked Lowry took another step to achieving that goal by carding a two-under-par 70 on the first day of the Volvo Champions event in Durban, five shots behind Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.
Lowry, who had five birdies in his round, needs only a decent finish along the Indian Ocean shoreline to break into the top 50 and the huge reward of competing at Augusta National.
“I’m quietly confident if I keep playing the way I was at the end of last year it will happen and I will qualify for the Masters before the final cut-off point in March,” said Lowry.
“At this stage I have qualified for the WGC Match Play Championship next month so there’s big world ranking points on offer there, as well.
“But if I do get myself inside the top 50 before the Match Play I will speak with Rory about the possibility of getting a few invites in the States between the Dubai Desert Classic and the Volvo World Match Play in Bulgaria in mid-May.
“Hopefully I can get a few invitations on the back of Rory to play in a few other PGA Tour events before the Match Play in Bulgaria.”
Lowry has not competed since being hospitalised in Dubai last November and diagnosed with shingles. It meant missing out on the season-ending DP World Tour Championship and ending 2012 just short of his Masters goal.
“I am happy enough to start my new year with a birdie at the last for a score of 70,” he said. “But I have to say it’s highly unexpected as I’ve done hardly any practice over the winter as I didn’t play that much purposely so that I would be hungry this week.
“I had a great Christmas and a great New Year and then went out to Dubai for a week’s practice under Justin Parsons from Northern Ireland who is at The Els Club, and who is working with Rory this week, before coming here to Durban.”
Sharing 11th place with Lowry is Pádraig Harrington, who was disappointed to miss a short birdie putt on the 18th in his round of 70.
“It would have been nice to see that birdie drop at the last so that’s a little disappointing and it was the only putt all day I didn’t trust the line,” he said.
“It was my putting also that was on song all day and the one aspect of my game I felt was really strong coming here to Durban.”
Michael Hoey went to four under par with four straight birdies from the seventh hole and was still four under with three to play but ended double bogey, par and double bogey in a score of 72.
“I just had two mental lapses there coming in and that was disappointing,” he said. “There was OB I was thinking about at both 16 and 18 and I just paid a big price but there was a lot of good in the round so I am not overly disappointed.”
Darren Clarke also recorded a pair of double bogeys as he finished with a three-over-par 75.