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Could any body confirm that linking to Google benefits your PR?
Or if you have the Google API Search Tool in your site apparently you rank higher in the SERPS.
I have seen recently sites doing well in the SERPS, with not apparent reason, and they all had the search Tool box in their Homes.
Even if it is not true, if we think carefully, Google could take advantage of this and introduce it in its Algorithm. In this way they could "push" their brand even further.
Just cause some pages you see do better that link to google - doesn't mean that is the CAUSE.
People that link to google are more likely to understand google and optimize their pages for it. This is only one reason you may notice what you are noticing.