(CNN) -- Rory McIlroy has had a 2013 to forget but chose a lucrative exhibition match with World No.1 Tiger Woods in China to give promise of a return to his stellar best at season's end.
The pair fought it out Monday in the "Match at Mission Hills" on Hainan Island and it was Northern Ireland's McIlroy who edged it by one shot after 18 holes.
The 24-year-old carded a six-under 67 against 68 for Woods - repeating his win of 2012 in the corresponding event.
"I would like to play all my tournaments in China where I can beat Tiger," McIlroy joked after his narrow win.
"It's been great to come back to this wonderful golf course where I still have such great memories from playing here two years ago in the World Cup," he told AFP.
McIllroy won the World Cup in 2011 with Graeme McDowell at the same venue and will be hoping his improved form can be carried over to next week's WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
He needs a solid finish to get into the top 60 and qualify for the European Tour's Race to Dubai, an event McIlroy won last year to round off a superlative season.
He is currently languishing in 62nd place in the rankings, a far cry from his triumphs of 2012 as he rose to No.1.
"I still have four tournaments left to the end of the season and still would love to finish 2013 strongly and get some momentum into next season," he said.
"I'm hitting the ball well and from tee-to-green the game is very solid and if I can get the putter working, I maybe can contend and get a win or two."
By contrast, Woods has won five PGA Tour events this year, but has missed out on adding to his major tally of 14.
He battled a virus and a long trip from the United States to push Mcllroy close, the issue decided when he bogeyed the 17th to fall a shot behind.
Both men birdied the last, but it was McIlroy who took the honors, building on his strong second place finish in the Korea Open eight days ago.
Organizers have not revealed the fees both men received, but reports said they had shared $3 million to play in the exhibition.
Woods is skipping the HSBC-Champions to play in a tournament in Turkey.
In other golf action Monday, Ryan Moore beat Gary Woodland in a playoff to win the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, an event sanctioned by the PGA Tour.
The American pair were tied on 14-under par after four rounds at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, but had to come back the next day after the light ran out.
Moore birdied the first extra hole to claim the $1.26 million top prize and a two-year PGA Tour exemption.
The tournament, which was blighted by storms and rain delays, attracted a strong field, which included major winners Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley and Ernie Els as the star attractions, but they did not feature in the battle for the top prize.